Apr 13, 2014
Death educator Rochelle Martin compares a home funeral to a home birth, except there are no risks because the person is already dead.
In an afternoon workshop, she spoke about the resurgence in home-based, end-of-life care.
Loved ones are cared for in surroundings that are familiar to friends and family, lying in a place of honour for three days — usually, before they are transferred for a funeral service, burial or cremation.
"It's pretty intimidating to walk up to a coffin in a funeral parlour, just the anxiety — there is something about just having it happen naturally around you, for children and adults that makes it less scary," Martin said.
The registered nurse and certified end-of-life and home funeral care guide was at Homegrown Hamilton Sunday afternoon. The café was filled with about 30 people who came to learn more about after-death care.
She listed the benefits of being cared for in your own home rather than being whisked away and not seen again until the funeral. It allows for more visitation time and flexibility, creates a natural flow of events and emotions and can diminish fears about death and dying.
"It teaches kids about the life cycle and the reality of death, to embrace grief and loss as a part of life," Martin said.
It's non-invasive to the deceased, can be eco-friendly and it's a heck of a lot cheaper.
Martin broke down the cost of a basic, conventional funeral. After $2,295 for a metal casket, $250 for removal transfer and $1,817 for basic service fees among several other costs, a cheap funeral costs about $8,000.
With a home funeral, if you splurged on a cardboard coffin for $125 (the biggest cost), add $15 for the death certificate and another $15 for three sheets of Techni-Ice (dry ice packaged in a flexible polymer), you're looking at under $200.
"Saving the costs to me is important, I don't want people to inherit big bills," said Michel Proulx, 75.
Proulx always hated the cold and the idea of cremation appealed to him over being buried in a cold plot. But after Sunday's workshop, the financial details may have swayed him.
"I think the do-it-yourself has more dignity and respect, it's more personal," said retired palliative nurse Samantha Emmerson, who is considering a home funeral.
She already knew quite a bit about the topic, including the fact that it's legal in Canada, but wanted to know more.
The second half of the discussion was a demonstration in which Martin offered tips to make the experience easy and enjoyable, including how to transport the body, keep it cool, wash and present it for visitation.
"If you cared for a loved one before death, you can care for them after death — it's the same thing."
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